Paris: Simplify and Indulge
Paris is that rare combination of gluttony and minimalism, where, by American standards, the majority of Parisians live with very little. A family of four comfortably resides in a 1000 sq. ft. apartment in Paris (leaving their stroller in the hallway), and they spend their money frugally buying only the clothes they need with no impending drive to acquire the newest cars, electronics, devices, or gadgets. On the other hand, though, the Parisian lifestyle and the city itself is, even by American standards, is ultra-indulgent. There are 7,000 cafes in Paris (in the 1880s there were 45,000), and, from what we observed, that’s where most Parisians spend their morning, afternoon, and night. In addition to the fact there is much pride taken in the individual shops that offer exclusively one ilk of food group (cheese, bread, chocolate, etc.), the selection of cheese in a Parisian grocery store in uncanny, not to mention the fact that they have a whole case in the front of the store for high-end cheeses 80 euros and up, right beside the popular foie gras delicacy, again with selections ranging from low to upwards of 100 euros. Nothing says decadence like savoring your weekly foie gras with a side of moldy cheese.
Our “vacation” mindset was fueled by the regular routines of the Parisians: when we stopped at a café at 3 pm on a weekday to have a coffee, we ended up ordering beer and a dessert, because that’s what everyone else was doing. And, before you judge, sit next to someone eating a French dessert at 3 pm in the afternoon and try not to order it.
My favorite snapshot experience during each of our trips to Paris happens daily each morning. We hand-pick a new café upon exiting our Parisian apartment around 7:30 am each day, order the usual, and proceed to evaluate the quality and flavor of their coffee and croissants. Usually the selection process includes 3 very determinative factors: 1) how busy the cafe is, 2) whether it offers chocolate croissants, and 3) how many cigarette butts are on the ground thus far. Even though our trips are usually about 2 weeks, we never run out of new cafés to try in any particular neighborhood. Because I have a feeble palette with a limited vocabulary, usually the verdict each day is “delicious” without much else while the flaky warm crumbs land on my blouse. (In case you’re wondering the whereabouts of our nearly 2 year old during our morning/afternoon café breaks, the iPad is key, along with the free cookies that some Parisian cafes provide).
For this trip especially (due to our our toddler), we took advantage of the spectacular playgrounds and parks Paris has to offer. Across all the Arrondissements, I love love love love the wrought-iron intricate balconies and the perching flowers and greenery on them adorning what seems like almost every residential buildings in Paris. They delight me everywhere I go and so do the other smashing details of the City.
Indeed, we did pretty much nothing while in Paris–and that’s why it was so wonderful. And by nothing, I mean grazing Paris, eating Paris, drinking Paris, admiring Paris, walking Paris, and biking Paris. It really doesn’t get more gluttonous than that. Here are a few food shots from this trip, including: (1) L’As du Falafel-known as the world’s best falafel or the Green door (because it has a green door): we always eat here multiple times on our trips; it’s my husband’s favorate and budget friendly. (2) Buddha Bar: so romantic, our best meal in Paris. (3) the China: came highly recommended from friends, but alas, we couldn’t enjoy it because we brought the baby to dinner. I’m sure the food I shoved down a mile a minute was delicious. (4) Georges: gorrrrgeous view atop Orsay museum (below is a picture of my Irish coffee and their interpretation of a Caesar salad), (5) La Briciola: I got this recommendation for pizza from David Lebovitz a few years ago. The pizza is delicious, but we go back because it has special memories for us. Don’t miss the Italian food in Paris either–like the cafes, we like to sample lots of different Italian eateries to compare the handmade pastas.
Since we got married in Paris 2 years ago and had our son, we’ve tried as much as possible to maintain life as normal. But if you’re going to take this route, including hitting the Parisian cafes and fine dining scene, travelling via trains on day trips, and touring wine caverns in tiny French towns (below we were on a day trip to Reims), be prepared to tolerate some serious eye-rolls from the locals. And change a diaper or two in a less-than-convenient-public-corner. There are hardly any toddlers on the Parisian dining scene, and our general impression was that they were not-so-tolerant of the occasionally unruly little one. Notwithstanding, though, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.